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Ministerial Conference - Ninth Session - Bali, 3 - 6 December 2013 - Statement by Mr. Marokon Alilee - Director-General, Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business - Vanuatu

Statement by Mr. MAROKON ALILEE

Director-General, Ministry of Tourism, Trade,

Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business


Vanuatu takes great pride in making this statement, as this is the first WTO Ministerial Conference it is attending as a full member since its accession to the WTO last year.


We thank the President and the people of Indonesia for their warm hospitality and excellent organisation and facilitation of this Conference.  We recognize Ambassador Roberto Azevêdo on assuming the helm of the WTO at this crucial time and we fully endorse his statement that “trade, underpinned by the multilateral trading system, has been a powerful force for growth and development”.  We would also like to thank him for his substantive and transparent approach in the negotiations thus far and hope that this process will continue and we look forward to working with all WTO Members to promote and strengthen this multilateral trading system in the coming years.


Like most small economies, Vanuatu depends significantly on international trade in goods and services for its economic development and to improve the standard of living of its people.  The rules-based multilateral trading system should be responsive to the aspirations of small and vulnerable economies and least-developed countries by continuing to provide a robust platform which would enable them to expand and diversify their economies and use trade as an engine of economic growth and sustainable development.


As a small and vulnerable economy and a least-developed country which had to make enormous sacrifices to join the WTO, failure is not an option at this meeting and Vanuatu calls upon all countries to exercise flexibility to ensure the success of this meeting.  We joined the WTO because of our conviction that the rules-based multilateral trading system is a force for good that would help Vanuatu to use trade to alleviate poverty and attain economic development.  Our hopes and aspirations, which are shared by many countries, should not be undermined by the continued inflexibility in the positions of the key trading nations.  As small countries, we have very few options and Members should realise that the decisions we make here could have a profound impact on the economies of SVEs and LDCs.


The ninth WTO Ministerial Conference here in Bali holds a special significance for Pacific WTO Members.  We face unique challenges including small nations surrounded by enormous seas, geographical isolation and vast distances from major markets, environmental challenges from climate change and rising sea levels and the smallness of our economies.  We call upon all WTO Members to intensify their efforts to reach agreement on the Bali package, which has development at its core and is consistent with the letter and spirit of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.  We also expect that at this meeting, WTO Members will agree on a post Bali Work Programme which will give high priority to issues of utmost importance to SVEs and LDCs across all the negotiating areas.


We urge the developed-country Members to support a Work Programme that addresses the particular structural disadvantages and inherent vulnerabilities of SVEs and LDCs in a holistic manner.  The commitments that would emerge from the negotiations will be crucial in determining whether or not we should continue to place our confidence in the multilateral trading system.  We reaffirm the importance of Aid for Trade, and more particularly, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), for developing and strengthening the productive capacity and economic infrastructure of LDCs. We call on our development partners to positively support the extension of the EIF programme post 2015.


While Vanuatu has come a long way in liberalising its international trade regime and ensuring non-discrimination through the WTO, our exports continue to face non-tariff barriers in key export markets.  In much the same way for cotton for some LDCs, a product of significant importance for Vanuatu and other Pacific WTO Members, being kava, a product which is valued for its food and beverage quality, is being denied access by major trading partners without any scientific or legal basis.


Even with the impasse in the DDA, we call upon those countries maintaining these restrictions to immediately lift the ban on kava, so that Vanuatu and other Pacific countries could derive significant benefits from international trade.  The rules-based multilateral trading system should cater for the interests of the weak and poor, otherwise its credibility will be undermined.


As a recently acceded Member, we know how laborious the accession process could be, so we welcome the impending membership of Yemen to the WTO.


We need to send a powerful signal from this Conference that the WTO is very much alive by adopting the Bali package.  We need to see the bigger picture and not focus on our own small and narrow interests.  The multilateral trading system has contributed greatly to the expansion of the global economy and we should do whatever is necessary at this meeting to adopt the Bali package and fulfil the aspirations of SVEs and LDCs.